It’s no secret that King County Executive Ron Sims and Sheriff Sue Rahr don’t see eye to eye. Every decade, the King County Charter is reviewed and this year, Sims representatives and Rahr squared off over control of the department. Sims’ office went so far as to tell the committee reviewing the Charter that they really feel the Sheriff should return to an appointed, rather than elected, position. Rahr asked that control of contract negotiations with the guild representing her deputies be removed from the Executive’s office. Neither got what they wanted, but to any casual observer, there’s certainly no love lost between the two.
So it wasn't all that surprising when, after Sims announced a $68 million King County budget shortfall requiring nearly 9 percent cuts to all public safety agencies, Rahn went out campaigning against Sims’ suggestions for trimming the fat. Over the last few weeks, she’s focused on rural, unincorporated King County, the places where any budget cuts to the department will be felt most acutely, with a presentation on how that kind of hit will likely impact services. Some highlights:
* 100 deputies will be axed
* Property crimes valued under $10,000 will not be investigated
* Neither will most fraud, identity theft, and bad check kinds of cases
* Centralized drug investigations will go
* And cold case homicides will remain unsolvedIncorporated cities have contracts with the county for a police presence that earns the department money so that kind of service will remain unchanged. But everyone outside the borders is pretty much screwed, to use technical budget-speak, and it might be worse, Rahr said her office was informed this week that the shortfall might be closer to $73 million. The people living around Maple Valley aren’t happy about it.
“As soon as that gets out, we’re all gonna get robbed!” cried one man in a packed classroom at the Maple Valley library last night. About 70 people had crammed into the room to hear Rahr justify the cuts, encourage them to write Ron Sims demanding that he find a way to juggle the budget and keep it from happening, and, one can assume, deflect potential problems with her own reelection next year.
For the most part, her message fell on sympathetic ears. Bette Filley of High Valley says being outside the limits of Seattle, she doesn’t feel like she’s on Sims’ radar at all. There aren’t enough of them out here to matter much in an election, so why would Sims and the County Council bother with their needs, she asked. “I think the number one job of government is to protect the people, and I think Ron Sims is wrong to make these cuts across the board,” she declared last night. “Tell Ron Sims!” came a shout from the back of the room along with a spattering of applause.
Rahr encouraged everybody to flood his e-mail inbox with demands that he find a way to avoid such drastic cuts. “And all nine councilors,” she added.
Rahr also got in a couple of digs at Sims from the charter fight, noting that one of the biggest expenses she has is the health care package he negotiated for the deputies. She also noted that if she was appointed, she would never be allowed to come out to such a forum.
The digs were enough to inspire Rob Lowen, a retired Fairwood resident to raise his hand. “Yes?” Rahr asked, pointing in his direction.
“You ever think of running for Ron Sims office?” he asked.
Rahr laughed: “you’re my bosses and I have an obligation to serve you.”
Her not-saying-no response caught me off-guard. The shots at Sims have always seemed more about establishing responsibility for the problems in her department than setting up a run. I asked her about it at the end of the meeting. “No!” she gasped. “No, no, no. I should have been clear about that.” So Sims doesn’t have to worry about a direct challenge from his top cop, but I doubt she’ll be doing a lot of stumping for him next year.